Daniella Kallmeyer of KALLMEYER New York on How-To Inherently Know Your Customer
Daniella Kallmeyer is the Owner/Designer of KALLMEYER New York. She got a Bachelor's Degree at London College of Fashion, majoring in Fashion Design & Technology. She interned/worked at LUCA LUCA, Proenza Schouler, McQ Alexander McQueen and Alice & Olivia before starting her own line in 2011.
Daniella's family is from South Africa. Her grandmother, a dressmaker, lived in New York and therefore, Daniella spent a lot of time there growing up. She always knew she was going to end up living in NYC.
From her travels, she has paid attention to the way people present themselves and how they behave. She understands the way people work inherently and how wearing a garment contributes to someone's identity.
Working with Lee McQueen of Alexander McQueen taught her perfectionism is important no matter how many times it takes to get to the final product. She worked on McQ which had a smaller team within Alexander McQueen. Her experience at McQ was more isolated and controlled which helped her take luxury consideration of design and transform it into a relatable context. Lee would come and review the textile work or the colors, references, inspiration, sketches, drapery, etc. She was able to take the inspiration from the couture collections of Alexander McQueen and translate it to the everyday woman for McQ which was a lightbulb moment for her to know how important it is to give this option to people.
She started her experience in the fashion world with LUCA LUCA. There was an intimacy to his design and the way the details & quality mattered. Having this as her first experience in this world, educating herself and understanding the industry was extremely influential. She payed attention to the interactions Luca had with others in the showroom, design studio and the store which explained to her early on why fashion and designing in this way matters.
Next, she interned with Proenza Schouler when they were a relatively small brand. Seeing the level of detail and uninhibited creativity catapulted her into a whole new level of desire to be a part of this world. Getting hired at Proenza Schouler had a lot to do with having worked at Alexander McQueen since they knew she was coming from an environment with that kind of challenge and authentic design process.
Growing up when she stayed with her grandmother, there was a sewing machine on the kitchen table and they'd get to fix up things or make changes, sew skirts, etc. She had an excitement and passion around these memories. She remembers laying her sister on this huge sheet of white paper and tracing her out. This was her first experience making a pattern at age eight. They had black and gold lame fabric laying around the house and she ended up using that to make a flat paper doll dress. For her graduation, she put together a collection with 21 looks. She always knew she wanted to be a designer, but it was a different kind of decision to start her own line after having experiences working for established brands.
Every good business comes from a need to fill a space and a lack of something. In her early twenties, she felt there was something missing in the contemporary accessibility space. She wanted a brand with international sophistication. A garment you can wear in front of your grandparents, best friends, business partners, interviews, first dates, etc that was accessible from both price point and lifestyle perspective, but that had a sense of personal grandeur with class, sophistication and timelessness.
Price point starts with aesthetic. How many places can they wear this? What does it mean for them to wear it in both a casual and formal way? Can it be both? Is it too much or too little of something? She understands construction and quality from her background because of the tailoring instructors she had at the London College of Fashion and perfectionists like Lee McQueen, Luca & the Proenza boys. You have a greater sense of what matters. She has established relationships with her factories and the relationships within the garment industry that has allowed her to have sharp price points. It is expensive to produce in NY, but because of the level of trust, communication & relationship building she is able to feature a competitive price point.
Meeting new people who are changing their world in their own way is inspiring to Daniella. Daniella focuses on choosing fabrics that one can wear through their life and creating shapes that make a woman feel or stand a certain way. She wants to help take minutes or hours from getting dressed everyday because she can grab a KALLMEYER New York piece, put it on, it fits perfectly and she doesn't have to worry if it is appropriate enough for work or sexy enough for her date or confident enough for drinks with the girls.
"Your late with your next collection before you start the first." Monitoring, controlling, perfecting quality and timeline is how Daniella designs a collection. Inspiration comes naturally from being out in the world, meeting new people and having new experiences. She is aware of what's going on and how her customers are moving through life now as opposed to five years ago. She thinks about what does her customer need now that she didn't need back then.
Day-to-day, she works with material innovation and sourcing resources. She is working to ensure her clothing is made in ethical and environmentally safe ways. She works to create a fair timeline, that makes sense and works. She can give people product quickly that is perfect quality while innovating & staying connected to her customer.
"Jump off a cliff and grow your wings on the way down." It has been a constant adaptation of values & processes. You have to change and adapt to how people are using technology.
How does she rebuild website so navigating it is interesting to the modern woman? She changes the way she delivers her product so it is more sustainable or environmentally sound. She asks herself how does she communicate the story of her brand and the woman behind her brand without it being gimmicky because her customer is less influenced by what others tell her to be influenced by although she is aware.
She thinks it is important to produce her garments in the US. We can't take away all the manufacturing and think there will still be a place to sample, innovate, test and try. There are global benefits to helping communities in underdeveloped countries. For a brand based in NY, it is important that part of that is kept alive and that it is controlled. She knows she has a hand in everything that happens due to her close relationship with her factories. The process doesn't stop after you've designed the sample, it continues when you are manufacturing. You have real hands that are building and creating every one of the pieces.
This brand is nothing without the woman she is designing it for. The collections are evolutions of each other. The brand will be about creating a wardrobe portfolio for her customers. She is constantly seeking gaps to fill. One season it may be all about the blazer and the next all about the dress, but this is only because she is giving her customer what she needs. Going into her wardrobe, figuring out what the gaps are right now so she doesn't have to. Daniella removes the thought-process but not the personality.
Aesthetic of the brand - she creates elevated, everyday staples. She wants to find ways to elevate moments, where they are comfortable, but still feel special. She finds garments to move through every moment of a woman's life and ways of designing that are familiar, but elevating the pieces so they feel just right. Not too formal, informal, fitted or loose. Daniella gives women the opportunity to get dressed without a second thought. The aesthetic is a balance of masculine and feminine, but more a balance of how you want to present yourself on the outside and how you want to feel about it on the inside.
She did not know inherently how to run a business. The proudest thing of owning her business was learning how to do different things each and everyday, answering her own questions, finding ways to ask herself more questions and to finding people that will support her decisions. Someone who knows how to run a business is really good at problem solving and figuring things out.
Financially, she has never been one to be reckless with capital. It is important to be responsible in business and to make big things from small decisions rather than trying to make big things from big things. You get to be part of adapting, evolving and mobilizing which is a great part of being a small business owner.
She wanted the KALLMEYER New York logo to have a sense of timelessness. To feel new, but also established. The website evolves constantly. She wants it to be interactive & reactive because it has a story-telling element. It is about inviting customers into the KALLMEYER New York world and finding pieces to add to their existing wardrobe.
Advice for starting a business: establish the need and know the problem you are solving. Don't try to do everything at once. Find a way to simplify so you can infuse everything else into that other thing. It will make your evolution more worthwhile due to your foundation.
Kallmeyer is in a great place. Daniella feels established in their identity and customer experience, and is trying to embrace that. She wants to continue creating a stronger line of communication or delivery to her customers that isn't only about eccomerce. She will continue to create a larger platform for her customers and find a way for it to become interconnected with them. It's about what the clothes mean for the world her customers live in.